The Rise of the Flexible Schedule in Europe

This guest post about the rise of the flexible schedule in Europe comes from writer Alex Moore. If you want to submit your own guest blog, first read the guidelines here.

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It’s no secret that 9 to 5 is the traditional job schedule, and that’s universal no matter where you’re from. For many years now, the eight-hour day has been regulated to fit within this interval, which is good if you like continuity, but it can be detrimental for many other reasons. Still, supervisors didn’t care much for these inconveniences back in the day.

But things are rapidly changing nowadays, which is undoubtedly a good thing. Workplace strategies are shifting towards flexibility more and more in 2018’s Europe, and that is certainly the way of the future. Here is how major players on the continent are winning when it comes to these forward-thinking policies.


About the Flexible Schedule for Work

There is a common misconception that leads most people to believe that their peers who are on a flexible schedule or work from home put in fewer hours than them. But that is rarely the case. While it is true that some might try to find loopholes, that is generally not true. In fact, most flex-employees are even more devoted to their job.

The truth about flexible work schedules is that you still need to put in the number of hours demanded by your country’s employment law. The only thing that’s different is the way you go about them. There are two possibilities: a daily flexible schedule or a compressed work week. Depending on your personal needs, you can go for one or the other.

Daily Flexible Schedule vs. Compressed Work Week

In the case of the former, you will still work the average 8 hours per week, but you can choose to do it in a slightly different interval, such as 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., or from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and so on. Many companies still require you be there for most of their core hours, but if they’re forward-thinking enough you might even be able to go a lot later than that.

You can also choose to work from home in many cases, which saves you a lot of money on gas and all that time spent in traffic during rush hour. And even if you’re coming into work a bit earlier or later than the regular 9 a.m., you will still be spared of those never-ending jams that regular working hours bring.

As for the latter, it generally involves working just four days per week, but with a 10-hour day. This means that you are compressing your regular schedule so that you have one extra day off which you can spend running errands, going to classes or with your loved ones. It all boils down to why you need a flexible schedule in the first place.

The European Approach

According to statistics and historical data comprised by the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions, all the major Western European countries are discussing and implementing flexible schedule strategies. While for some the conversation started as early as the 1970s, others have joined it in the late 90s and early 00s.

The Eurofund published the study above in 1998. Twenty years have passed since, and Europe is currently on top of the flexible schedule game. In fact, while the U.S. is lagging behind, countries such as Germany, the Netherlands and even the United Kingdom are implementing important innovations in the field.

Sociology and social policy professor Heejung Chung of Kent University is currently studying flexible work schedules in Europe to provide a better understanding of why certain models are successful, while others fail. Professor Chung has revealed her findings in an interview for Slate Magazine. According to her, there are a few examples worth discussing in this context.

Great Britain’s Take on the Flexible Schedule

Perhaps the most problematic approach at the present moment is that of Great Britain. The law has allowed for parents of special needs children to request adjustable hours since 2003. Subsequently, the government expanded this policy to cover everyone in the job industry by 2014. But, the major issue here is that it is a right by request.

This means that the employee needs to propose this to their superior, but then he or she can easily refuse it with little argumentation involved. This is obviously inefficient because most employers end up rejecting these requests out of sheer bias and outdated judgments that classify such workers as slackers.

When it comes to the proper legislation on this topic, the Netherlands is currently winning the game, and their strategy is a simple one too: always having the employee’s best interest in mind. While they still have to request an adjustable program, their superiors are no longer allowed to refuse them so simply.

Instead, the law obligates them to provide the laborer with a strong case if their claim is denied. They need to prove that this would damage the business in some way so that their arguments are valid. Otherwise, the law need to approve the request. This level of employee protection is what makes the new European model functional and efficient.

What’s Next for Europe’s Future of Work

Although Europe is far ahead regarding flexible schedules, many countries have a long way to go. Considering the information from the research above, it is clear to see that the Dutch method is currently among the best. Germany is also following suit, and soon enough the EU will bring a true revolution in this field.


About the Author

Alex Moore is a workaholic and writer. Alex explores workplace social dynamics and determines ways to improve those dynamics. A Psychology undergraduate, Alex will usually apply his knowledge to workplace predicaments, mostly in the form of written words. You’ll usually find him contributing to JobApplicationCenter.

Topics: future of work, workplace freedom, flexible schedule, europe, flexible work

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